When we think about a physical environment that is child-friendly, we might envision a place where play is acceptable and encouraged. There won’t be too many breakable things around or sharp-edged items accessible or pointy corners of furniture sticking out.
Similarly so, an emotional environment that is child-friendly has space to learn, grown, and make mistakes without impending judgement. There aren’t breakable feelings (of the parent) lying around, there aren’t any sharp-edged tongues waiting to make a mark, and there aren’t any pointy corners of manipulation sticking out causing the children to have to worry about being jabbed by guilt, blame, shame, or obligation.
Children are free to be children. And they can trust their parents to lovingly guide them on a good path.
Child-friendly parenting focuses on helping children make a connection between choices and consequences. There is an emphasis on natural and logical consequences of choices that a child actually made, not an emphasis on punishments based on the way a child is. We make a distinction between who children are and what they do. We want our children to feel accepted and liked for who they are while showing them that they have control over what they do (i.e., their choices).
It gets a little tricky if and when children struggle with their decision-making abilities, so this is why child-friendly parenting not only includes the choice-consequence (natural and logical consequences, that is) connection but also involves qualities that the parent possesses. Qualities like patience. Understanding. Gentleness. Wisdom. Willingness to listen. Desire to care. Follow-through. Creativity. Humor. Fun. Warmth.
So child-friendly parenting is two-fold—we focus on the choice-consequence connection (as opposed to using harsh, coercive tactics, especially if they are unrelated to the child’s choices) and we focus on leading by example (as opposed to expecting children to only do what we say and not as we do).
Additionally, we focus on creating a child-friendly environment—emotionally speaking as well as physically speaking. We keep ourselves in good spirits; we are lighthearted and good-natured; and we choose to have a good attitude as much as we can—no matter what the day might hold. There’s an infectious level of positivity, enthusiasm, buoyancy, flow, and spontaneity in the air that makes a natural habitat for play, fun, laughter, happiness, and joy.
We use humor, funniness, and silliness to infuse everyday moments with the zing that depressed environments lack. We listen to our children and give them our full attention. We encourage them. We show interest in them. We respond to them. We care for them. We meet their needs (always) and their wants (to a reasonable degree). We withhold nothing good from them that’s in our power to give them.
What would you add to the framework for child-friendly parenting?